For Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday, a celebration of ideas

For Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday, a celebration of ideas

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As Frank Lloyd Wright fans begin a yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of the great architect’s birth, there will be tours, special events and exhibits — many right in the Madison area.

They’ll herald Wright and his revolutionary approach to architecture and design. But most importantly, they’ll demonstrate how his ideas are still very much alive.

Born in Richland Center on June 8, 1867, Wright spent much of his youth in Madison. As an adult he made a valley near Spring Green — the land his Welsh grandparents farmed and where he spent many summers as a teen — his home and refuge.

“He grew up two blocks from the children’s museum …. on Gorham Street,” said Brenda Baker, exhibits director at the Madison Children’s Museum, which on Wednesday will unveil a long-term exhibit where visitors can explore some of the same concepts in nature, math and construction that sparked inspiration in young Wright.

“We think it’s a great story for Madison,” Baker said. “This is one of the most famous architects in the world, and he grew up right here.”

Interest in Wright only continues to grow, and proponents are looking at ever-new ways to share his legacy with the public, said Heather Sabin, tourism coordinator at Monona Terrace.

Along with community events and Wright-centered tours, the convention center hosts events ranging from urban design for kids to its Wright Design Series of lectures.

“The programming we’re doing (at Monona Terrace) is geared toward different types of audiences. We hope to be able to come at Frank Lloyd Wright from different angles and different approaches to learning about him,” she said.

“I think one way in — especially for the Millennial-age folks — is the swell of interest in modern and mid-century design.”

The Taliesin estate, Wright’s home and studio located an hour west of central Madison, already attracts some 25,000 people from across the world each year. But it, too, goes beyond the popular public tours, offering architecture camps for youth and hosting concerts by groups such as the Rural Musicians Forum and Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

A cycling “Tour du Taliesin” took place last month. Next is a series of farm dinners, with chef-prepared meals using produce grown right on the property.

“Taliesin was a home, but it was also a vibrant architectural practice. It was also a farm,” said director of preservation Jim Erickson.

“So really, there are these different components of his life here. People always think of Frank Lloyd Wright as an architect, but he was also very much a farmer and many other things.”

With Taliesin’s many special events, “I think what we’re trying to do here is to explain the full legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright to the public,” he said. “There’s the performing arts, there’s the fine arts — they were all really woven into life at Taliesin.

“So when we talk about preservation at Taliesin, there’s the buildings, there’s the landscape, there’s a collection of objects that’s incredible. Even more important, we have a living experiment of a way of life. What we’re really trying to bring forward are those full dimensions of Frank Lloyd Wright’s life.”

Many venues will be exploring those dimensions during the Wright 150 anniversary year. Here are some nearby:

Wyoming Valley School, Spring Green:

  • Free tours, refreshments and music during a Birthday Celebration from 2-5 p.m. June 4. Regular tours held 1-2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 6306 State Road 23, Spring Green;

Seth Peterson Cottage, Sauk County:

  • Free tours from 1-4 p.m. June 4, with special presentation at 2:30 p.m. Mirror Lake State Park, E9982 Fern Dell Road, Baraboo;

Taliesin, Spring Green:

  • All tours are half price Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; reserve ahead at" href="" target="_blank"> “A Wright Celebration for Kids” with author/entertainer Bob Kern, takes place 5-7 p.m. June 17 at Taliesin’s Hillside Theater; $25 adults, $5 ages 12 and under; register online. Tickets will be available soon for performances by the Taliesin Community Chorus on Aug. 6-7, including the premiere of Scott Gendel’s composition honoring Wright. Exhibition of photography of Wright by Pedro E. Guerrero runs through Oct. 31. A 50th Anniversary Gala at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center is planned for Sept. 22. 5607 County Road C, Spring Green.

Monona Terrace, Madison:

  • Special “Birthday Tour” takes place at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday; $1.50 special admission. “Wright On! For Families,” a free event with drop-in activities, runs 1-4 p.m. Oct.1. Wright Design lecture “The Unknown Craftsman: Creating, and Re-Creating, Furniture Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,” by Alan Anderson, is at 7 p.m. Nov. 16; free. All these events require tickets through Eventbrite; see

Madison Children’s Museum, Madison:

  • Grand opening of new exhibit inspired by Wright’s ideas, with free admission 5-8 p.m. Wednesday; ribbon-cutting at 5:15 p.m. 100 N. Hamilton St.;

Wade House Historic Site, Greenbush:

  • Exhibit of rare photos plus program with Ron McCrea, author of “Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss,” 6-8 p.m. Thursday. $5 adults. The monthly speaker series “Frank Lloyd Wright: A Wisconsin Original” continues July 13.

Dinner at Unitarian Meeting House, Madison:

  • A special event scheduled for Oct. 13 will honor Wright, the building’s architect. More information will be available later in the year.

Burnham Block, Milwaukee:

  • Tour the American System-Built Homes Model B1 designed by Wright plus get a cupcake for $1.50 (tours regularly $15) during the birthday celebration from 12:30-3:30 p.m. Thursday. Free tours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 23-24 during Doors Open Milwaukee. 2714 West Burnham, Milwaukee.

Frank Lloyd Wright Trail:

  • The Wisconsin Department of Tourism has made it easy for Wright fans — as well as the casually curious — to discover some of the state’s architectural gems along the new 200-mile Frank Lloyd Wright Trail. Download the smartphone app or visit

Wright in Wisconsin:

  • This nonprofit organization holds Wright-related events, including an annual home tour. See

Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee:

  • “Frank Lloyd Wright: Buildings for the Prairie” will be on view July 28-Oct. 15, with gallery talks Aug. 22 and Sept. 26.

Chicago area:

  • The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is offering many special events throughout the Chicago area, home to the largest concentration of Wright buildings in the world. Many 150th anniversary events are sold out; some can be seen online. Details at

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